Interview with Thomas Schönen, Head of Brand, Communications, Digital and Marketing at Philips DACH

You cannot achieve agility by stewing in your own juices

Digitalization does not recognize the difference between large and small companies. They all must face the challenges of perhaps the most comprehensive change process in the economy, and that better sooner rather than later. Thomas Schönen, Head of Brand, Communications, Digital and Marketing at Philips DACH, has already packed his bags with his employees and is wending his way towards digital transformation. In an interview with EUROPEAN BUSINESS, Mr. Schönen explains why that is the right decision, how Philips intends to develop as a healthcare brand, and why it is important to cooperate with start-ups.

EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Mr. Schönen, using agile cloud solutions, you have done away with traditional office workstations in your company. How has that affected the way your employees work?

Thomas Schönen: If you want to help shape the journey of digital transformation successfully, you have to create the right environment for your staff. That doesn't work with stiff hierarchies, immovable desks, fixed working times and landline telephones – you will almost inevitably be stuck in traditional ways of thinking. At any time our employees can work on individual projects in agile units and individually arranged teams and thus react quickly and flexibly to the challenges of digital transition. Our working areas have a tremendously invigorating effect on the working atmosphere. And just by the way: Each employee profits from this high flexibility in their work-life balance, as well.

"If you want to help shape the journey of digital transformation successfully, you have to create the right environment for your staff."

Thomas Schönen
Head of Brand, Communications, Digital and Marketing at Philips DACH

EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Many companies complain of a lack of qualified staff. You actively hire lateral recruits. What experience have you had with them?

Thomas Schönen: With us, the focus is always on the individual applicant. Apprenticeships and certificates show you just one side of the person. Just as important are soft skills, like openness, curiosity, enthusiasm and the desire to work on innovative solutions in integrated teams. And the willingness to improve yourself constantly. It is precisely these requirements that lateral recruits often bring with them. Although of course it's clear: We expect a high level of digital expertise from all of our employees. EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Let's talk about current developments at Philips: The brand Philips intends to develop into a healthcare brand. How do you plan to survive against major competitors like Siemens or Apple and Google?

Philips HIP 2017
Philips HQ Hamburg

EUROPEAN BUSINESS: Let's talk about current developments at Philips: The brand Philips intends to develop into a healthcare brand. How do you plan to survive against major competitors like Siemens or Apple and Google?

Thomas Schönen: The healthcare market is among the largest growth markets in the world. Many companies have recognized that there is incredible potential particularly through digitalization. Here, as well, the future no longer belongs to individual products but to comprehensive health solutions like those offered by Philips. However, data security plays a significant role in this sensitive topic – just think about the digital patient file or tracking private health data. Here, there is a vital importance attached to the huge brand trust that we have built up with our customers in over 125 years. Consumers and doctors know that we as a European company are extremely conscientious in how we deal with personal data. Compared to Apple and Google, that is a strategic competitive advantage.

"Unconventional approaches and innovative business ideas are the fuel with which digital transition can be framed successfully."

Thomas Schönen
Head of Brand, Communications, Digital and Marketing at Philips DACH

EUROPEAN BUSINESS: The Health Innovation Port is being developed at your new headquarters in Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel, where start-ups will have at their disposal a kind of campus with offices. How will you cooperate with these start-ups, and what do you expect of that cooperation?

Thomas Schönen: It's part of the laws of nature of the digital world that completely new competitors and business ideas keep emerging, even in places where we might not have expected them before. You cannot achieve the agility that is so important for a successful future by stewing in your own juices. Cooperation with start-ups is therefore essential for a large company like Philips. That is how we increase our internal pace, boost the cycle rate of innovations and transfer the spirit of start-ups to our own company. Unconventional approaches and innovative business ideas are the fuel with which digital transition can be framed successfully.

"If marketing doesn't develop any relevant messages, the entire software package will also grasp at nothing."

Thomas Schönen
Head of Brand, Communications, Digital and Marketing at Philips DACH

EUROPEAN BUSINESS: In your opinion, what does the future look like in digital communication, and what is Philips's strategy in this area?

Thomas Schönen: In the last few months, digital communication was shaped by a highly quantitative development: more and more digital channels, increasing analytics that seem to be indispensible for the customer journey and a successful campaign. In the meantime, the digital ecosystem has reached a certain degree of maturity in which concrete statements can be made about the significance of the individual channels. Even digital ROI can be determined with relative precision by now. If marketing doesn't develop any relevant messages, the entire software package will also grasp at nothing. That is why we will have to come back to strengthening qualitative marketing components in the future.

Interview: Sarah Urquhart


Philips GmbH Market DACH
Unternehmenskommunikation
Röntgenstr. 22
22335 Hamburg
Germany


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European Business

Q3/2017

In this issue: Gleeds France SAS – Your partner for your building / D. Carnegie & Co AB – Refurbishment formula for safer suburbs / SLM Solutions Group AG – True child of digitization / Hast Retail, s.r.o. – Shopfitting as art / Hyundai WIA Europe GmbH – Banging the drum for Korean machine tools

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